Monday, January 15, 1951
Fear Dragger Gudrun
Lost With Crew of 17
No Word Since SOS Flash Early Sunday Morning
Craft Reported Herself Sinking South of Newfoundland
Rescue Boats and Planes Search Area in Vain
No Further Reports up to Noon
Gloucester Men Aboard
Harry W. OConnell, Jr. 28 years,
Alphonse Sutherland, 51 years, married, nine children
Wilfred J. Mello, 36 years, married, two sons
August E. Hill, 45 years, married, one son
Daniel Williams, 40 years, married, two stepdaughters
James J. Cavanaugh, 45, married, five children
Others believed to be Crew Members
Capt. Johan Axel Johannsson, 46, West
Medford, owner-master, married two children
Matthew L. Whalen, 46 years, mate, Somerville, married, 11 children
Daniel Meagher, 42 years, first engineer, Saugus, married, two children
Albert Moulden, 63 years, second engineer, Sharon, married
Frank B. Nickerson, 49 years, Braintree, married, one child
John Johnson, 68 years, Boston
John Kozlowski, 62 years, Tolland, Conn.
Three others believed aboard but whose identity could not
Fears for the safety of the 17-man crew including seven
Gloucester fishermen, aboard the 114-foot steel beam trawler Gudrun,
missing on storm-swept Grand bank since early yesterday morning, were heightened hourly
when up to this noon, an extensive air-sea rescue party had failed to contact the craft or
any sign of it and the crew.
Last contact made with the Gudrun
was at 3.24 oclock yesterday morning when her owner-skipper Capt. Johan Axel
Johannsson, 46 years, of West Medford, sent out a frantic "SOS" to the
effect that "We are sinking" and then gave his position as being some 200 miles
south of Cape Race, N. F.
All seven Gloucester members are married and have a total
of 19 children. In the entire known crew, 12 are married and have a total of 35 children.
Once the distress message was picked up by New York Coast
Guard diversion headquarters and relayed to Boston Coast Guard division, one of the most
elaborate searching parties was dispatched as fast as possible to the scene. This flotilla
included three large planes, and seven surface craft led by the New York bound
trans-Atlantic liner Mauretania. The flotilla searched through
the night and continued today, with Nova Scotian fishing craft, sch. Isabel F.
Spindler, Jean Francis, and the Blue
Spray among them. Two Coast Guard cutters, the Casco
and the Coos Bay, joined in the search this morning along with
two PBY planes of the United States based at Argentia, N. F. Coast Guard at Boston this
noon said no word had come from any of the rescue craft as having sighted the distressed
craft or her crew.
The Gudrun, formerly the Boston
beam trawler Boston College and built at Bath, Me., in 1928, was
renamed for Capt. Johannssons daughter. The craft was on a trip to
Grand Bank for dabs for Gorton-Pew Fisheries Co. Ltd. Of this city. It is surmised she was
laden with dabs and was homeward bound at the time.
The Gudrun with owner-skipper
Capt. Johannsson in command, sailed from the State Fish pier, this city,
on Wednesday, January 3, bound for Grand Bank, some 1,000 miles distant, on her second
flounder trip. It was the Gudrun which on a 17-day trip arrived
in Gloucester, Monday, November 20, 1950, with the phenomenal fare of some 240,000 dabs,
which they had caught off Grand Bank in a spot they had discovered. They reported the spot
was teeming with dabs, fathoms thick. Gorton-Pew Fisheries Co. bought the trip. The Gudrun
afterward made a groundfish trip and was out over Christmas, arriving at
Boston Fish pier on Thursday, December 28, 1950, with another large fare, including
236,000 pounds fresh fish among which were 1100,000 pounds dabs.
The present voyage was her third trip to the dabs site.
Three of her former crew remained ashore, and it is not known whether she went with a full
complement of 17 men, a regular beam trawl crew or not. She at least had 15 men aboard
including the seven Gloucester men. If there were 17, the three replacements came from
around Greater Boston.
It is believed that the Gudrun
must have filled her hold with dabs, an estimated 300,000 pounds, and was on the way home,
when she was stricken early yesterday morning. The coast Guard at Boston was apprised by
Newfoundland authorities, that a severe snowstorm was brewing in the area and that ships
in the vicinity had reported winds as high as 50 miles an hour by dawn, a fact that
indicated the seas were abnormally high.
The only word received from the Gudrun was
a terse radio message received by the Boston Coast Guard via New York Coast Guard division
headquarters that gave the ill-omened message. "We are sinking," and of course
the usual advice as to position of the craft.
The Gudrun gave her position as
being in longitude 33 degrees, 45 minutes, and latitude 42 degrees, 38 minutes. According
to the Coast Guard, that would have placed her at some 200 miles south of Cape Race,
Newfoundland. That message was received at Boston at 3.24 oclock yesterday morning.
Within minutes, one of the most extensive searching
flotillas by air and sea was organized and directed toward the position given. Two PBY
planes, United States craft, were dispatched about 8 oclock yesterday morning from
their base at Argentia, N. F. Canadian authorities sent a Lancaster plane, a large ship
out from Halifax, N. S. The three planes were over the area by noon but spotted nothing
according to report. It is believed they were hampered by increasingly thickening weather
that cut off their chances to scour the surface.
At the same time, the Navy re-directed two of its
destroyers, the Larson and the Power,
cruising in that area to the scene. The Coast Guard cutter Casco on
weather duty in the section of the North Atlantic, was detailed to go under forced
draught. The passenger liner Mauretania inbound from Europe
deviated from her regular course, when apprised of the "SOS" and made all speed
at 20 knots to reach the area. Two Nova Scotian fishing craft, the Franchi and
the Spindrer, also aided in the search, as did the American
freighter, SS American Planter, which left her morning at St.
Johns, N. F. early yesterday to speed to the scene.
Gloucester is deeply affected by the fact the craft is
still missing. Hopes are held forth even now that the crew members may be picked up by
passing craft. It is known that the Gudrun had two large life
boats, one a large life raft equipped with rations and water, which could normally have
been launched in a matter of seconds. No details are known as to how long Capt. Johannsson
and his crew fought to save their vessel from sinking before the skipper was forced to
send out the distress call. If they did manage to escape from the sinking craft they would
be a long hard pull to shore at least 200 miles through North Atlantic winter weather to
reach safety unless they are successful in crossing the path of another vessel en route to
Newfoundland or the Maritime provinces.
Coast Guard at Boston revealed that one of the destroyers
at the scene reported to have sighted planking, floating in the sea, but whether or not
the planks were part of the Gudrun could not be ascertained. The
Gudrun is painted black with a white pilot house aft, a yellow
stack and two gray masts.
The three Gloucester-men who had been crew members of the
boat but who stayed home this trip are Russell C. Arsenault and Arthur
L. Arsenault, brothers, and Clarence Simpson. Simpson was
aboard on the Christmas trip and left when he thought the settlement was too low. They has
some 240,000 pounds on board, including the dabs, and for some reason or other, he said
they were only paid for the dabs, which left the crew with a $126 gross share, for the
17-day trip. He decided to change over to another craft, and is now with the local dragger
Mary F. Curtis.
Arthur Arsenault said he took off the
Christmas trip because he wanted to be ashore for the holiday. He was due to go this
present trip and was at the Fish pier when she sailed. "Call it a hunch or what you
will," he said. "But I just didnt go with her." His brother, Russell,
was with him at the Fish Pier but neither did Russell go aboard.
It was a sorry day throughout Gloucester yesterday when
news of the craft being missing became widespread by noon. In the homes of the seven
families, most gravely affected, it was especially grim as hours passed without any
encouraging report. Delegate Alphonsus J. Hayes of Atlantic
Fishermens union here was to be notified to help spread the message. No news came.
Throughout last night, the vigil continued. Another check with the Coast Guard at 8
oclock this morning, brought forth the same hopeless report, "No news."
Of the Gloucester men aboard, all seven are married. Sutherland
has nine children as follows. Raymond, 36 years, Gertrude, 24, Thomas, 22 years, now in
Europe in the United States Army, and Vincent, 30 years, now in the Army in New Jersey,
John, 18 years, Jerry, 16, Carol, 14, Marion, 11, Ellen 8 years. James Cavanaugh
has five children, John 22 years, Agnes 17, Shirley 16, James Jr. 15, and Dennis 14. Hill
has one son, Fred 14. Mello has two children, David 8 years and
Paul 7. Williams has two step-daughters. Capt. Johannsson
has two children, Gudrun, 5 years and Maria, 12 years.
The Gudrun was originally the
Boston beam trawler Boston College, one of the college fleet
owned by the Atlantic and Pacific Fish Co. of Boston. She was built at Bath, Me., in 1928
and sailed from Boston until the Navy bought her in the early part of World War II. The
Navy converted her into a mine sweeper and deployed the ship to the Iceland patrol for the
Capt. Johannsson, who had made a great
name for himself as a highline skipper when he had commanded of the Boston beam trawler Notre
Dame before the war, had later gone as skipper of the beam trawler
Lark and more recently in the southern-owned big dragger M. C.
Ballard. Then he decided he wanted a vessel with more hold capacity than the
Ballard possessed so five years ago when the College
was up for sale by the Navy he secured her and brought her to the Beacon
Marine Basin in this port for a complete alteration job. He renamed her the Gudrun
in honor of his younger daughter and went as the skipper. Gorton-Pew Fisheries Co. had her
go fishing for them and this latest trip was made to secure dabs for the local firm.
The Gudrun was 241 gross tonnage,
114 feet long, 23 feet wide, and 11 feet deep, and is said to be powered with a total of
1200 horsepower, General Motors engines. She originally had 500 horsepower.
The incident of the Gudrun
recalled only too grimly to mind the fate of the Boston beam trawler Belle on January 8, 1947 when she
sailed with a crew of 17 Boston men aboard and was never heard from afterward. The Belle
was somewhere off the southwest coast of Nova Scotia at the time, insofar as could be
Monday, January 2, 1951
Coast Guard Abandons Dragger Gudrun Search
No Trace of Missing Boat, Men
Large Flotilla of Planes and Surface Craft Had Scoured Thousands of Square Miles in Grand
Bank Area For Six Days
The United States Coast Guard which spear-headed a most
extensive search by sea and air for six days for the missing Gloucester beam trawler Gudrun
and her crew of 17 men, announced today that the search was officially called off early
Saturday. At the height of the search, 17 planes including navy and coast guard, as well
as a flotilla of 15 surface craft, coast guard, navy and private fishing boats, had
traversed thousands of square miles of the Atlantic in the Grand Bank area. They never
found a trace of the missing 114-foot steel craft or the men.
The Gudrun which left Gloucester
on Wednesday, January 3, for a trip of dabs for Gorton-Pew Fisheries Co. LTD,. Radioed at
3.24 oclock Sunday morning, January 14th, the terse but grim message,
"We are sinking" and followed with her position, as being some 180 miles south
of Cape Race, Nfld.
Aboard were Capt. Johann Axel Johannsson of
West Medford and a crew of 16 men including seven Gloucester men. Twelve of the crew are
known to be married and they have a total of 35 children. All seven Gloucester members are
married and have 19 children
Whatever happened is still a mystery for no indication has
ever been given as to what transpired through that night, or what fate was met by the
vessel and her men.
All that was humanly possible to do was done to locate the
missing craft and crew. The Coast Guard and Navy deserve the gratitude of all concerned in
the great effort they made last week in the search under most trying weather and winter